Over the last few years I have started to use the New Living Translation (NLT) version of the Bible more and more. I just like that it is easy to read, understand and apply to my life.
Recently I have purchased a NLT Life Application Study Bible. I wanted it so I could do the same study I do with my New International Version (NIV) Thompson Chain Reference Bible.
Here are some of the features from the website…
- Thousands of Life Application notes help explain God’s Word and challenge you to apply the truth of Scripture to life
- Personality profiles highlight over 100 important Bible characters
- Book introductions provide vital statistics, overview, and timeline to help you understand the message of each book
- 200 thumbnail maps highlight important Bible places and events
- Christian Worker’s resource: a special supplement to enhance the your ministry effectiveness
- 260 charts help explain difficult concepts and relationships
- Harmony of the Gospels built right into the text of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
- Daily reading plan
- Topical index to all notes, charts, maps, and profiles
So far I have found it really good and really enjoyable to use. I have especially enjoyed having a notes section at the bottom of each page that gives background and explanation to hard verses.
I would highly recommend it if you are looking to buy yourself a study Bible.
I have been thinking a lot about repentance lately. It was initially started by an assignment for college, but the reflection has lingered on for a few weeks.
The Doctrine of Repentance refers to the attitude of having godly sorrow for personal sin and the turning away from it towards a new life. In the Bible to repent means showing sorrow for wrongdoing, to stop doing the wrong action and to start doing what God says is right.
Henrietta Mears in her book What the Bible is all about takes it a bit further when she says that “Repentance always involves making a conscience decision to make a change away from sin and a focus towards God”.
As I have thought about this I have realised that repentance is about being sorry and it is also about turning away from the sinful behaviour towards God, but I think in some cases it should involve the help of others to overcome a long term ongoing problem.
Imagine if I was someone who got drunk every night and when I came home I was angry at the world and I took it out on my wife and kids by beating them. It wouldn’t be enough to say I am sorry to them, go to confession and be right. In a sense I would be “right” with God, but there is more I would need to do to be right with my family and truly right with God.
I might need to get some counselling and work through why I am getting drunk, why I am angry with the world and why I am beating my family. As James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to one another so you may be healed”. Bringing someone else in to help may be required to sort out once and for all the issues that are lingering.
Ultimately I think real repentance is about confessing our sin to God, turning towards God for help, apologising to those we have hurt and working through the problem with the help from others. When we do these things we grow in our character and become more Christlike in the way we are living. After all that is what God really wants.
I was reading the Bible book of Proverbs this morning. As it is the 24th I was reading chapter 24. When I came to verse 27 it caused me to stop and reflect. It says…
“Do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house”. (Proverbs 24.27 NLT)
As I reflected on this simple verse I thought it contained a lot of wisdom in it. Wisdom I hear you say?
Imagine if we think about moving to a new area to become a wine grower. We might buy some land, build a big house and then plant our vines. Six months later they might all die because it might not be the right place to grown grapes!
We see in this verse it talks about establishing our crop first and then after it is viable and we have an income, we can build our house knowing we will have a sense of security.
This simple verse talks about planning before acting and getting things in the right order. I guess if you put it in todays terms it would be like trying to buy a big house before you have a job to pay for it!
The cool thing about the Bible, and in particular the Proverbs, is there are so many simple sayings that are full of wisdom and can add so much to our lives. Why not check it out today?
This email arrived in my inbox today. It is a short and simple thought from the NLT Life Application Daily Devotion. It was also quite timely as we are learning about prayer at our Wednesday night prayer group. Enjoy!
“Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. (Mark 1:35 NLT)
Jesus took time to pray. Finding time to pray is not easy, but prayer is the vital link between us and God. Like Jesus, we must break away from others to talk with God, even if we have to get up very early in the morning to do it!”
It was a nice and simple reminder as I started my day.
Dictionary.com says that boasting is “to speak with exaggeration and excessive pride, especially about oneself” and “imply vocal self-praise or claims to superiority over others”.
Jeremiah 9:23-24 reads, “This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let those who boast boast about this: that they understand and know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.”
You can see from these verses that we should not boast in our own wisdom, our own strength, or our own riches. God says that if we boast, we should only boast of our understanding of and our relationship with Him.
Our boasting should be about knowing that He is the God of the universe who shows love, kindness, compassion, justice and righteousness on the earth.
In short, if we do boast, it should be about Him and not ourselves.
Sometimes when we read the Bible there can be some confusing passages. You can read them and it just doesn’t really make sense or you can draw multiple conclusions.
So what do we do when we find passages that are hard to understand? Here are a few things I do as I pray and reflect on a passage.
1. Read multiple versions – I usually line up several versions of the same passage next to each other on the screen. I have Pradis Bible software and I call up the NIV, NLT, NKJV and the CEV. This gives you some other versions for comparison. Sometimes this is enough to give a clearer understanding because they use slightly different wordings.
2. Look at some Bible commentaries – Bible commentaries are written by Bible scholars who have done many years study. You can find the passage and see what it says about it. It can be useful as they often give background information and compare the passage to other passages on the subject. I have two hard copy commentaries and two more on my computer. After reading all of these I usually have a good understanding of the passage.
3. Look at the original words – Next I might look at the original Greek or Hebrew. Again I have software that helps me with this. You can read the English and Greek words next to each other or you can click on the Greek word to get an explanation. Sometimes knowing the Greek or Hebrew word and meaning can give a deeper understanding of the passage.
4. Talk to others – Another way I find useful is by talking to others. There is a lot of Bible wisdom lurking inside our Christian friends! While most don’t consider themselves Bible scholars or theologians, many have read and studied the Bible for a long time. It is good to talk about difficult passages and work together to find a deeper understanding of them.
5. Draw from history – Not only can we talk to our Christian friends who are along side us today, we can read what the great Bible scholars have written over history. Many of the great theologians from centuries ago have their works published today. You can draw greater meaning by simply reading some of the classic books.
So there you have it. Five ways I deal with difficult to understand Bible passages. I hope you find that useful.
PS. If you don’t have access to multiple Bible versions or a Bible Commentary you can find some at www.BibleGateway.com or free software at www.e-sword.net.
Ecclesiastes 11:4 NLT says, “Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.”
This verse is interesting to me since I have moved to the country. I now understand farmers more than I once did. A number of friends are farmers and right weather conditions are very important to them.
The ones I admire the most are the ones that plant at the same month each of the year and they harvest at the same month at the end of season too. They trust God to supply the rain in due season. They trust Him to give the right amount.
One even says… “we want what we want, but we get what we get”. Sometimes it is less than he hoped for and sometimes it is more. But they always get to harvest something.
In the midst of it he trusts God for the rain and right conditions and know things will turn out alright. They don’t wait for the right conditions, they just get going and they always reap a harvest.
I am sure we can learn from this spiritually too… Perhaps there is something we can get started on that we were waiting for the right conditions for?
Matthew 6:1 says “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven”.
We can see by this verse that we need to be careful of how we do things and check our motives for doing them. The questions to ask is are we doing them because they are the right thing to do or are we doing them to get some sort of recognition from those around us?
Further on in the passage Jesus talks about three things we can do that get us public praise. I can them the “but when you” statements.
1. Verse 4 says “But when you give to the needy…” This can be something we can do privately or we can do publicly and make a big show of it. Jesus said not to let our left hand know what our right hand is doing.
2. Verse 6 says “But when you pray…” Again when we pray we can make a big show of it or we can do most of it privately. Jesus told us not to be like the hypocrites who grandstand with our prayers in the church or on street corners.
3. Verse 17 says “But when you fast…” Fasting is about giving up things for God and pressing in to Him for breakthrough in some area. Jesus tells us to keep it quiet and not seek praise from others for doing it. Fasting is about you and God.
Of course these verses are not saying that we should never let anyone know what we are doing. There are times when we should tell people what we have done because it will encourage them on to greater things in their own life.
But most of the time these things should be done in secret with no show or expecting praise from others. It is about the heart attitude we have and our motives for doing it.
Today I just want to summarise this whole area. In saying this though, there are so many other verses or ideas that I could have included, but I just wanted to give you a broad picture.
Here are the 17 headings from the previous posts…
- Fear God (deep respect and reverence for Him)
- Live in a way that pleases Him
- Love Him
- Serve Him with all of your heart and soul
- Always obey His commands and decrees
- Act justly in all your do
- Walk humbly with God
- Seek and work for mercy
- Love God with all of your heart
- Love your neighbour as yourself
- Set your mind on heavenly things
- Put off your old worldly nature
- Clothe yourself with your new heavenly nature
- Be Christ’s representative in your world
- Trust God with all of your heart
- Lean on His wisdom and understanding
- Enjoy your life and all of God’s blessings
When we do these things, we pull together many of the things in the Bible that God says that He requires of us.
Remember 95% of God’s will is that we come to know Him first, and then He wants us to walk in His ways.
This post is the sixth in the series of What God requires of you. It looks at Ecclesiastes 8:15 NLT. It says…
“So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.”
I have finished with this verse on purpose because it is about enjoying life. Often as Christians we can get so caught up in the mission we are “doing” for God that we forget to enjoy ourselves.
Solomon, who was the wisest man to ever live (1 Kings 3:1-12), wrote this verse. He had great wealth, great power and all the things a man could want? Still realised that it was important to enjoy life.
As Christians we have to include things in our lives that give us fun and enjoyment. We need downtime because life can get hectic and hard sometimes.
In the my next post I will do a final summary.